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This Day in History

Australian History

Monday, February 11, 1788. :   The first criminal court session is held in the penal colony of New South Wales.

     The First Fleet of convicts to Australia arrived in January 1788. Prior to the Fleet leaving England, British authorities saw that a judicial system in New South Wales to deal with criminal matters would be required. Thus, the Court of Criminal Jurisdiction was established in 1787 under the auspices of the First Charter of Justice in the British Empire of New South Wales. The formal proclamation of the Act of Parliament and the First Charter of Justice which Governor Arthur Phillip read out to his audience of convicts and marines two weeks after the Fleet’s arrival established the jurisdiction of the colony from Cape York in the north to the southernmost tip of Van Diemen’s Land. This event also established the colony’s first courts.

The first criminal court session was held in the new colony on 11 February 1788. During the proceedings, Samuel Barsby, whose original death sentence had been changed to transportation, was sentenced to 150 lashes for abuse and striking Marines. Thomas Hill, a “leather breeches maker” who had been transported for stealing a silver watch with a value of 20 shillings, was sentenced to 8 days confinement in irons on a small rocky island at the head of the cove for stealing biscuit from another convict.

The Court of Criminal Jurisdiction was superseded by the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1824.

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